You press a button and the television screen pops to brightness. What was a dead grey screen now projects a cool-blue background, a multi-colored logo in the upper right corner, and a head-and-shoulders shot of a newscaster whose skin shows no blemish, whose hair is sculpted, whose voice flows, and whose eyes lock on your own. How could you not listen to such an image, though, in truth, he consists only of alternating points of light and two dimensions?
One of the outstanding features of the modern era is that the power of image has been harnessed as a new religion. In image is power, control, and captivating allure. Aspiring to have a good image is the new version of the quest for holiness. But there is this too: if you live by image, you will die by image. The sculptors of image today present us with a continually rotating gallery of pictures of perfection. But if they snatch our allegiance and our longing, they will leave us disappointed and defeated. We will never arrive, and the chase after the right image will leave us exhausted. We will have no meaningful understanding of imperfection. Wrinkles will defeat us because we will see them as the irreparable scars of time instead of the marks of maturity.
I do not know who first coined the phase “image is everything,” but whoever did, captured the spirit of the modern world about as well can be done. People in the public eye–politicians, entertainers, civic leaders, novelists, even sometimes spiritual leaders–often work desperately to shape and polish that public persona that will please the most people. And we ordinary people pick up the cues. Are we all supposed to be images pleasing to some external eye?
Here is the truth of the matter: image really is everything. But the image that matters is a moral form, a spiritual shape, that is the manner of the way we were created.
“Then God said, ‘let us make man in our image, in our likeness. . . ‘ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Here, just 27 verses into the Bible, is a manifesto on all of life, based upon one basic reality about, one unique characteristic of, humanity.